The old man sat in the old, worn rocking chair. His weathered hands gripped the faded picture. A single tear slid down his cheek as he gazed at the smiling faces of his wife and sons. It often surprised him that he still had tears to spill for them, after all this time.
"I will find you . . ."
The words whispered in the darkness to him, a promise that he had longed to believe in. Although he could feel the hope fluttering within him whenever he heard the words, after all this time, he knew better. Not even Death could free him from his prison.
He felt the tears beginning to fall, and quickly moved the photograph. He had no idea what he would do once the photo was gone, damaged beyond repair by time and tears. It was his last link to his life; the last link to the outside world. By all rights he should have been dead, a rotted skeleton by his measure, the bones picked clean. But nothing could reach him here. He was truly alone.
He could still remember clearly the day that everything changed. The day that his life was literally ripped from him. There was a storm. There had been a car accident. And then the stranger. He was the first one on the scene. And he looked hungry. There was a lot of blood. He'd never forget the never-ending stream. Like a river.
He screamed while it was happening, pleading with it to stop, to take him instead. But the stranger just laughed. And when the man was the only one left alive, the stranger spoke.
"Although I hunger still, I will leave you here," he said, drifting closer. "But you cannot have this."
And the stranger ripped his heart out of his chest.
The pain eventually subsided enough for the man to get away from the wrecked vehicles. Luckily, he and his family had been heading home from their camp, which was only a few miles up the road. He managed to stumble his way back to camp where he passed out.
When he finally woke, after at least a few days of being asleep, he was surprised to find a shadow standing over him.
"I know you are here," the shadow said. "Though it is faint, I can feel your pulse. I will find you, and take you home."
"Wha . . . ?" the man asked, stumbling backwards out of the bed, away from the shadow as it reached a bleach white, bony hand towards him. "What are you? Are you Death?"
He never did find out exactly what the shadow was, for at that moment it looked up, then disappeared. It came back often, always whispering that it would find him, but it never did.
Between its visits, the man fell into despair. For although he did not eat, he was no longer hungry, and although he no longer drank, he did not thirst. His body continued living, no matter how he neglected it. And no matter how often the shadow came for him, it never managed
to find him. And so he sits, in the crumbling ruins of what was once his camp. Waiting for a Death that eludes him still.